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UG workers proceed on “indefinite” strike

University of Guyana (UG) workers on Wednesday decided to embark on an “indefinite” strike after neither the government nor the institution’s administration intervened on day three of a full-blown strike for a 60 to 75 percent increase in wages and salaries.

President of the Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), Dr. Mellissa Ifill said the Chief Labour Officer, Charles Ogle has so far not responded to the unions’ letter requesting conciliation in the dispute that dates back to February 2012.

“The staff decided today (Wednesday)that we would be going on strike indefinitely until we receive a credible offer; an offer that we can live with even if the offer is interim while we negotiate within a fairly specific and short period of time,” she told Demerara Waves Online News.

She also said that efforts to secure meeting with President Donald Ramotar have fallen on deaf ears. The Guyanese leader has already held talks with top officials of the Students Society (UGSS) who told him of the urgent need to improve the teaching-learning conditions at the 50-year old institution. “We are very much open to meeting with any stakeholder who can assist in resolving the crisis at the university including the President,” she said.

The intensification of the industrial unrest into an indefinite strike came almost one week after UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi withdrew the institution’s offer and called off negotiations until the workers resume duty.  The Labour Minister, Dr Nanda Gopaul has since scoffed at the unions’ calls for conciliation, saying that the talks have not broken down.

But the UGWU and UGWU have unearthed a terms of resumption agreement dating back to February 2012 in which the Chief Labour Officer had committed his office to conciliate should the dispute remain unresolved.

Ifill said the strike was successful and workers have vowed to remain off the job until an interim payout is made or a reasonable proposal is put on the table.

Despite correspondence having been sent to workers that deductions would be made from their salaries for man hours lost, Ifill said most workers remained off the job.

The Vice Chancellor has, however, said that the institution has not been getting value for money from most lecturers because many of them lecture very few hours per week and do not conduct research. One recommendation to counter that problem, he has said, is to involve students in appraising lectures as part of a decision-making process for contract renewal.